I love reading through random tables for inspiration, as well as having tables to hand when I GM. As long as the content is properly interesting and relevant, and goes beyond 1d6 rats (look, why aren’t they 1d6 rats that escaped from a mad professor’s lab and have all sorts of needles, gears and cogs stuck in them, plus their brains are exposed under tiny glass bowls?).
Tables can be a great way to make exploration really exciting and unpredictable. For my sandbox wilderness game, I created a bunch of tables of encounters (both creatures and landsmarks) for different sections of the vast unexplored territories. When I rolled a landmark, I scribbled it down on my GM map, and it became a permanent fixture. Large swathes of land were never explored during the game, but that was fine, because (with a handful of exceptions) all my locations were used up in the areas the players did explore.
Hubris, a World of Visceral Adventure does a great job of this too. Each territory of Hubris comes with an introduction, tables for locations and encounters, the main ones of which are detailed further.
So chances are I’ll be posting in bunch of tables, starting with this one: ten random adventure seeds.
|1||Monster at Work. A tribe use a captured remorhaz as heat source. But some ill has befallen the tribe’s powerful guardians, and now they fear the creature might escape and slay them. The PCs need to a) slay the beast, b) rescue/help the guardians or c) train the tribe to handle its dangerous heat source. Variants on the above might include otyugh garbage eaters, xorn, bulette or ankheg tunneliers, or a mephit ice factory.|
|2||The Spoiled Princess. A princess needs rescuing from the centre of a labyrinth, but then refuses to walk, and insists on being carried all the way back to safety. Naturally, the PCs promised her father they wouldn’t lay a hand on her and bring her back anon. Jazz it up by swapping genders or race. An uppety gnoll princess in a pretty dress sounds fun.|
|3||The Invincible Golem. A creature that seems impossible to beat relentlessly chases (slowly) after the PCs, through barriers magical and mundane. They run away as they attempt to learn about its vulnerabilities. Play up the creature’s might by having it effortlessly slay the PCs’ powerful NPC mentor or quest giver right at the start.|
|4||Execution. The local queen, beloved mentor and ally of the PCs, is to be executed for alleged treason, with her remains utterly destroyed to prevent divine resurrection (if that’s a thing in your game, if not, just out of spite). The PCs’ only hope is for the clandestine completion of the ritual during visiting hours to turn her into a lich. They race after the components for the dangerous ritual, before attempting to perform it in secret. Optional follow-up: The resulting power goes to the queen’s head and the lich becomes a threat.|
|5||Post for All. The king wants to establish an efficient postal system across neighbouring and far-reaching nations. The PCs are sent out to establish postal routes and offices and ensure that they are safe.|
|6||For the Win. An eccentric monarch is on his deathbed, but has no heir. He organises a life-sized chess battle, where each figure is comprised of a small team. When two figures meet, they are transported to a pocket plane (from ordinary small forest, to dangerous trap-laden corridors) to fight. Complication: sabotage! The monarch’s long-time adviser plots against the party.|
|7||The Tax Collector. The taxc ollector of Oerik is looking for guards to accompany him on his perilous journeys to collect the tax for the kingdom’s coffers. The catch? Oerik is a nation of ogres, hags, orcs and worse, and they’re not known for welcoming the tax collector with open arms. Variant: Oerik is ruled by a caste of necromancers, and every 50 years the tax they collect is one soul per homestead.|
|8||Only the Best Will Do. The Voldrith family is old, distinguished and rich. For their daughter’s wedding, the generous parents order an aurora silk dress made. There’s only one snag - aurora silk is produced by a particularly vicious type of spider lairing in the forbidden forest. Variant: the silk comes from the spit of giant clams.|
|9||The Point Being. The PCs wake up on a flat-topped stone spire, with no memory on how they got there. Visibility is limited to 50 feet in any direction before a dull, gray mist fills the view. To work out how to get off the spire, the PCs must puzzle together clues from their individual backgrounds. Development: The PCs are not in fact on spire so tall it reaches into the clouds. The ground is actually mere feet outside the field of vision, but a zone of silence surrounds the bottom of it, so that any dropped object is never heard hitting the ground.|
|10||Deadly Games. In the affluent but morally ambiguous nation of Katarcki a new, literally deadly, passtime is making the rounds. Public spectacles where volunteers fight to the death, die gruesome deaths in horrifically inventive traps, or get tortured to death, bring in huge crowds, with a group of clerics bringing these volunteers back to life to live and die another time. The clerics’ services are costly, but these deathsports are so popular that the gold is simply rolling in. In order to infiltrate these grim proceedings, the PCs will have to volunteer too, and die one or more horrible deaths to put an end to them.|